It's still the Trump era and you can't shame Republicans. They used the filibuster again (3 times this year!) to prevent a debate on voting rights protections they-- not just as a party but as individuals-- used to support. This one was a stripped down, bare-bones Freedom to Vote Act by Joe Manchin that took out all the most progressive reforms and left in all the stuff conservatives should be fine with. Except for Lisa Murkowski-- whose reelection has been endorsed by Manchin-- the "party of election integrity" filibustered the bill. No shame! Not even a sense of irony!
The GOP-- and I mean individual Republican members of Congress-- has slipped from backing voting rights to backing voter suppression. Wednesday, Jennifer Rubin's Washington Post column was devoted to reminding Joe Manchin that he has no more excuses for blocking the Democrats' attempt to reform the filibuster. Manchin had insisted there are 10 reasonable Republicans in the Senate who would agree on an election reform package. He wrote one and... just Murkowski. "Clearly," wrote Rubin, "Democrats are down to a simple choice: Protect voting, or protect the right to obstruct legislation in the Senate."
When you hear about a debate within the Democratic Party over altering the filibuster, you're hearing a misleading description. What's happening is an attempt to persuade Manchin to drop his veto. That's it. No debate-- persuading a pig-headed conservative asshole to go along. "Schumer also provided Manchin with the rationale for fixing the filibuster. 'The gears of the Senate have ossified over the years, Schumer declared. 'The filibuster is used far more today than ever before-- by some measures 10 times as much compared to decades past.' The Senate, he argued, cannot sustain its 'rightful status as the world’s greatest deliberative body.'... Democrats have every reason to demand that Manchin not multiply the damage already done to his party and, worse, to the sanctity of elections, by continuing his defense of filibuster powers. The time has arrived for Biden to level with Manchin: If he prevents Democrats from protecting our voting system, the 2022 and 2024 landscape for Democrats will be treacherous — and democracy itself will be imperiled. If they fail to shore up voting in the post-Jan. 6 era, the lion’s share of the blame will fall on Manchin for defending the same tool Southern segregationists deployed to fend off civil rights legislation. At a bare minimum, anti-election subversion legislation must succeed."
Does Rubin think Manchin is any less immune to shame than the GOP is? She concluded with an unintentional joke: "Biden publicly said he would back a change in the filibuster rules if voting rights hang in the balance. That’s exactly where we are now. It’s time for Biden to prove his devotion goes beyond rhetoric." Biden is an ugly joke.
This morning, The Hill's Jordain Carney reported that the Dems are ramping up for "filibuster talks," as though that meant something beyond begging Manchin to stop being a Republican for long enough to do the right thing. All that's going on is that conservative Dems-- John Tester (MT), Tim Kaine (VA) and Angus King (I-ME)-- are meeting with Schumer to talk about how to persuade Manchin, and presumably Sinema, to back a very limited democracy-protecting alteration to the filibuster.
One of the other obstacles to filibuster reform-- Tom Carper (DE)-- switched sides this week. He said he did "not come to this decision lightly, but it has become clear to me that if the filibuster is standing in the way of protecting our democracy then the filibuster isn’t working for our democracy... No barrier-- not even the filibuster-- should stand in the way of our sacred obligation to protect our democracy."
The worst outcome would be just a move to a talking filibuster, which will accomplish nothing for anyone outside of the Senate. The best move-- virtually impossible while Manchin and Sinema are senators in a tightly divided chamber-- would be to end the legislative filibuster that prevents votes not just on voting rights but on raising the minimum wage, on gun control, immigration reform and police reform.
Democratic and outside groups involved in the discussions have floated a range of potential changes for filibuster reform including passing a carve out for specific issues; changing the requirement from supporters needing to get 60 votes to the opposition needing to put up 41 votes; and the idea of a talking filibuster including limits on how many times a senator can speak, though there’s been confusion within the caucus about how that would work including what that would mean for the 60-vote threshold.
Senate Democrats are also discussing smaller rules change ideas including streamlining nominations, changing the 60-vote hurdle currently needed to start debate on a bill or offering deals on guaranteed amendment votes in exchange for allowing bills to come up for debate. A bipartisan group of senators previously discussed several of the same ideas, but were unable to get an agreement.
“We all have ideas or thoughts on how to change or do things,” Merkley said. “We all want to make our case but we don’t get to do it anymore.”
Kaine acknowledged the smaller changes weren’t directly related to voting rights but fit under a broader “restore the Senate” umbrella that is a part of Democrats' discussions.
“It’s all part of restoring the Senate to working well, and trying to think about this in a ‘like we’re in the majority but we could be in the minority too.’ so we’re trying to look at rules that would stand a stress test for either position,” he said.
Even as Democrats are planning to increase their discussions about potential rules changes they face similar roadblocks that have prevented them from deploying the nuclear option for months: math.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) have both said they are opposed to nixing the legislative filibuster and Manchin has specifically said he doesn’t support the idea of a “carveout” for specific issues.
Asked about the discussions Schumer is having on potential changes to the Senate rules, Manchin said that he was “not at all” involved in those discussions.
But Democratic senators have been trying to feel Manchin out and bounce ideas off of him on potential rules changes for months, with Manchin previously crediting Merkley, who has been pushing for rules reforms for years, for being a sounding board.
Kaine, who has also had discussions with Manchin, approached him after the failed voting rights vote this week to say that they should keep looking for how they could get a bill through the Senate, according to Manchin.
"Tim Kaine comes in and says 'good work on this' on the election bill," Manchin said during an interview with CNN's New Day describing the conversation. "'Good work on that, let's work some more on this.'"
How depressing is it going to be to end every post with this hideous picture of Manchin and Sinema plotting against America on the Senate floor with Thune and McConnell?